NYS Teacher Evaluations Delaying Firings Until 2014 & The Process Won’t Work

February 21, 2012
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RUBBER ROOM

NYC has its rubber rooms and Long Island has its closets for teachers who need to be out of the classroom for a variety of reasons, most of them legitimate to serious.

In the end, the taxpayer carries the debt. Long Island has been notorious for paying them to leave, offering them deals, and encouraging them to go out on disability at taxpayer expense.

Mostly the worst are put into these situations and many who should be there are not. Overall, it is a small percentage of the teaching force, but they are lethal and charges range from incompetence to moral turpitude.

Tenure in NYS is a property right and in most cases it would be easier to take a person’s property via eminent domain than it would be to take a person’s tenure. I do believe in tenure. I have seen good teachers persecuted by ill-informed parents or unscrupulous administrators/board members.

My preference in the debate was to review teacher tenure every five years (renewable tenure) to keep teachers current in their field and to give schools a legitimate opportunity to rid the system of people who do not belong in it.

Recently, Cuomo tied teacher evaluations to student performance and I find that fraught with danger for our good teachers, who are in the majority. Student performance on tests is unreliable, good teachers often get the most challenging students, and it will put more pressure on teachers to teach to the test. I have more research to do on this but it appears that 20-40 % of the  evaluation would be based on how much progress students make on a state standardized exam.

There will be a new process for teachers’ to contest a poor rating but Cuomo believes it will be easier to fire bad teachers – we’ll see.

When I evaluated teachers and included even a mild suggestion, many would carry on, get their union rep to harangue me and then badmouth me to parents – not a fun experience. For some, anything less than praise brought tears, anger, gossip.

There is another problem, the process cannot even be started until 2014! How is that for putting children last. Don’t think for a minute that the children are first. Teachers’ unions do not believe the schools are for children – most are there for the teachers, period! The ethical union leaders do their best but are at great risk when they try to do the right thing by the children – it’s not their job.

No Child Left Behind was a disaster and Obama put it on steroids with his own agenda of unfunded mandates to rise to the top. We did not have an NEA until 1977 and it has been down-hilll since. Teachers have little time with their students as ridiculous and unfunded program demands from the federal government replace science, history, art and music. Even special education has become more negative than positive in a number of cases, particularly in scheduling issues and inordinate and unnecessary expenses. Sports remain untouched generally which would be great if the other subjects also remained.

Cuomo wants to hold teachers more accountable but his is a typical politician/lawyer solution. He got his way with the unions by threatening them with giving them no say in the evaluations and saying he would cut hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state school aide.

Cuomo’s thuggishness got him what he wanted but how good an idea he is implementing remains to be seen. I think it is an awful idea and a win for the teachers’ union – more show than substance.

New York City is fading out the rubber rooms and Long island continues to look for creative ways to avoid the expensive and painful legal process of firing bad teachers.

Back in the 1980′s, one such case I had against a severely mentally disabled man who could not function cost over $300,000 taxpayer dollars before a deal was made. I had sexually strange teachers, drug-addled teachers, and morons who tied children to chairs.

Understand, however, that the majority of teachers, who vary from good to wonderful, deserve protection and were as disgusted with the bad teachers as we are.  They make good teachers look bad. It is not the teachers who are the bad guys in this scenario, it’s the teachers’ union.

If you want to read about another rubber room fiasco which is unfortunately not that unusual, read this: Rubber Room At Its Worst. One disgraced teacher worth $10M, making a $100,000 a year, did nothing, & refused to leave.

Everyone deserves due process and fair representation but the protection of teachers needs to be looked at. I don’t think Cuomo in all his thuggishness has found a very good solution by tying competence to inadequate measures of performance which are actually harming our teachers ability to teach.

Every evaluation will be contested out of fear and lawsuits will multiply. This solution does nothing and it will cost more. The lawyers are gearing up as we speak. This is going nowhere.

I would suggest that teachers demand their unions put children first and stop pretending they do when they clearly don’t, even to the untrained eye.

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